Category Archives: Wander

California Dreamin’

Well look at that…it’s already the middle of May!  I haven’t blogged in a month or so as I have been somewhat detached from my reality.   But I’m back to my office and now sharing my experiences is going to have to be my “fun” for awhile…or until my next trip!

I’m not one to sit still for awhile.  I like having things to look forward to – mainly vacations.  But with my job as a Realtor, I have to be in Atlanta for more time than I would like.  Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE ATL!  But I also realize how huge this world is and I am determined to see a lot of it in my lifetime.  I have a loooong way to go…

April was a damn good month, I must say.  Laguna Niguel, LA, Aruba..  sort of a big deal for little ol’ me.  Just going to touch on my CA trip for this post to keep things short (I’ll try my best) and sweet.  One of my close girlfriends had a reward trip in Laguna Niguel for her company (because she’s awesome and hit her goals!) and she wanted to stay longer than the actual planned trip (because who wouldn’t?!)  but her boyfriend had to go back to work and couldn’t stay that whole time with her.  Luckily, I was available!!  I’m a great fill-in for amazing trips if anyone else finds themselves in this predicament FYI! 

So I flew into LA on a Sunday and hopped in a rental to head to the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel.  Oh but I was starved when I landed so I had to make a very necessary pit-stop…

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(In-N-Out is a big deal for us east coasters who don’t have the luxury)

There were even some kids handing out In-N-Out gift cards to people in line to encourage people to come to church or something like that.  Thanks for the burger, Jesus!

So I scarf down my animal style burger on the way to Laguna and it was MAGICAL I tell you!  MAGICAL!  Driving those Cali roads, In-N-Out in hand…basically heaven.

Little did I know this trip was only going to get more magical (OK I sorta had a hunch)..

I finally get to the Ritz and meet up with my friend and we head straight to the pool!  Bevs & pool.  Yes please!  That night we went to Laguna Beach for dinner.  Ate at a place called Alessa.  Good food and nice romantic atmosphere..not that we were being romantical but you get it.  Meats, cheeses, pastas…oh my!   I even chatted up the hostess to get some deets on Laguna Beach (not the location…who cares about that?!  The SHOW.  DUH!).

The next day we did a yoga class over looking the ocean, had some beers on the beach, back to the pool, relaxed on our patio (complete with fireplace) for a bit before heading back to Laguna Beach for shopping and dinner.  #reallyroughlife

We went to Laguna Beach (a few miles away) a little earlier the second night to do some shopping.  There are a ton of cute shops in the area!  Then we went to a roof top bar to watch the sunset over the ocean before heading to Carmelita’s for dinner.  I had researched some restaurants before the trip and Carmelita’s had rave reviews, however none of the locals had heard of it (turns out it’s really new).  Luckily I ran into an old co-worker who now works at the Ritz in Laguna and she confirmed that it was amazing.  And that it was!   All I have to say is “strawberry jalapeno margarita”…O.M.G.  Although all of their margaritas sound amazing.  Man, this is hard to write while detoxing (yes, because of all these vacays lately I am doing the 2 day detox…yet again)..

The next day we drove to LA to spend a night there before heading home.  Quick trip for me in general but enough to leave me wanting more (of both Laguna & LA).  We didn’t have much time in LA but once we got checked in to the Chateau Marmont (ahhhhmazing…and so much history), we went to see all the shops and may have had some sprinkles cupcakes while doing so..

Later that day we started getting ready for our night out.  First stop, SUR, for drinks.  Only the coolest people will know how crucial it was to go there.  And yes, I saw some of my favorite D-list celebs (judge away!!).  We then went to AOC for dinner.  We sat in the courtyard which was super adorbs.  Later that night we went to Bar Marmont where we had the most amazing jalapeno margaritas (what is with me and jalapeno margs?  I even started making them at home recently).  We also spent time in the outside part of the main hotel restaurant several times over our short trip and the pool bar for a bit.  I definitely want to go back to that hotel one day.  I like that it has not been updated…although it makes for a real challenging hair & makeup experience..

Overall, it was an amazing trip and alllll thanks to my wonderful friend!  I really cannot thank her enough!

P.S. California, if you are reading this, I miss you a lot!

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CHI (2x)

Super bitter feelings about this post right now.  I already wrote more than half of it before I hit “save draft” and BOOM – gone!  There was some error with wordpress and I’m still not over it.  Last attempt at this one:

Chicago.  I’ve been 3 times in my life and every time was in the winter.  Stupid, I know.  But I still loved it.  A LOT.  I am almost scared to go back in the summer when it’s supposedly perrrrfect for fear of making a scene through the airport as I get pulled against my will to get on a plane and come home.

My husband and I went to CHI this past November as I had gifted him some Bears tickets for his birthday back in August.  He’s a big fan.  We stayed at the Park Hyatt right off Michigan Ave.  It was an amazing hotel and a great location for shopping ;)  The first night we went to RPM Italian.  Just down right tasty Italian.  I even witnessed my husband get a little starstruck as Robert Smigel was sitting a few tables away.  Apparently this restaurant is a big celeb sighting hot spot…and the food was great too.  Those two reasons had me sold.

After dinner we headed to Mindy’s Hot Chocolate as recommended by a few people.  The cocoa is rich, the marshmallows are homemade, and the wait for a table is long.  We got it to-go and headed back to our room to call it a night.

The next day we did some shopping and met up with some of my husband’s family that lives in the area.  They took us to R.J. Grunts in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.  It’s a staple in the city and known for being one of the first places to have a salad bar.  Shocking that my husband did not bite…  He loves a good salad bar.  After lunch, we walked over to the (free) Lincoln Park Zoo.  I loved that you just stumble upon a zoo in the middle of a park.  The highlight of the zoo trip?

Oh… just this baby rhino having the time of his life.  Go ahead and bookmark this video so you can refer back to it any time you are having a bad day. 

Later that night we met up with some friends that live in the city for dinner and some improv comedy at Second City.  The next day was the Bears game.  Not the best experience.  We realized I wasn’t allowed to bring my purse in when we were almost there.  Had to turn around and go drop it off at the hotel.  Then we get there and realize it’s cash only.  We had no cash.  Then several ATMs were down and the ones that were working were extreeeemely slow.  I think we finally got to our seats in the middle of the 2nd quarter.  Oh and our seats?  Last row possible.  Oops.  OH – and they lost :-/

After the game, we got some take-out deep dish from Pizzeria Due and hung out in our hotel room for the night before flying out the next morning.  If only we could have brought the leftover pizza home as a souvenir.

After our trip in November, we decided we needed to go back and soon.  And this time bring friends.  We invited several people and ended up getting a group of 8 total together which encouraged us to rent a home through VRBO.  The house was awesome and located in the Bucktown neighborhood…unknowingly a 5 minute walk to our friend’s place.  Convenient.  The first night we went to RPM Italian (again for my husband & I).  It wasn’t quite as impressive the second time mainly based on the location of our table.  We were in this corner of the restaurant snuggled up to a server station of some sort.  Nothing like the first time when we had a view of the whole place from our raised 2 top table.  Sorry friends!

After dinner several people went to bed.  Pasta and wine will do that…to some people at least.  The rest of us went to what our friend that lives in the ‘hood described as his favorite “dive” bar, Danny’s Tavern.  Well, let’s get this kid to Atlanta, OK?  This place was NO dive.  I mean it wasn’t glamorous but it was just a normal bar with dimmed lighting.  At least that’s what I remember seeing.  I also thought there was a chair somewhere there wasn’t and I woke up with an extremely bruised tailbone.  So maybe it really was a dive bar?  Either way, it was great because it was right across the street from our house.  We also met up with some other ATL friends that were in CHI for a wedding there and all in all – a great night.

The next day everyone sort of did their own thing.  My personal mission?  Eat amazing sushi for lunch.  A place called Coast was walking distance so 3 of us headed there only to be extremely disappointed to the “closed” sign on the door.  I think they were renovating or something…or maybe I read the hours wrong on the website?  I don’t remember.  Minor details.  We headed to the next sushi restaurant with a decent yelp review.  We were the only ones in there but hey – it was like 2pm on a Friday.  Whatever makes me feel better.  The sushi was okaaay, the ramen was pretty good, and the saki was going down.  After lunch it was time for some of us to go shopping.  Because it’s so much easier to shop after a drinking lunch of course.  We also stopped at a arcade bar for a beer.  Because why not?

For dinner that night, the Mr. & I had dinner with our friends that live in the city at Gilt Bar.  One of our friends has had basically everything on the menu and therefore we requested that she just go ahead and order for the table.  She did the best job.  Perfect amount of food and it was ALL really really good.  After dinner we met up with most of the others for more drinks and fun, and had a late night at the house…the usual.

The next day, my husband and I met up with some of his family members in the area at Big Star.  Two of their margaritas and I was feeling pretty good again.  Buh-bye hangover!  After we ate, we ventured to another bar for some extra afternoon cocktails.  We eventually departed and headed back to our house to get ready for dinner that night at The Publican.  We had almost the whole group at dinner and from what I remember – the food and drinks were great ;)  We went out after dinner and made the most of our last crazy night in Chicago.

All in all, it was a great trip.  Looking forward to that Chicago summer trip one day too..

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This post made me huuuuungry

As promised…

I really just want to touch on the crucial places (NYC, Boston, and Chicago) from my 2013 trips…meaning I ate at a restaurant (or 5) that left an impression…and probably responsible for one (or 5) of the 30 lbs I need to lose.  They were all totally worth it.

NYC

I’ve only been twice (first time was when my boyfriend/now-husband at the time took me there by surprise and proposed…beyond amaze) but both times I was blown away by my dining experiences.  This past visit was for a girl’s trip.  Not just a girl’s trip but an almost completely paid for trip.  One of the girl’s boyfriend gave her a “girl’s trip to NYC” for Christmas.  That’s right – he paid for our flights and our stay at the Waldorf Astoria.  He even got us tickets to see the Book of Mormon on Broadway…and the seats were in-cred-i-ble.  Quite a gift, huh?  Any males that might have stumbled upon this post – take note!

Shopping, dining, drinking, and even late night girl talk (complete with late night fatty room service).  I need one of these trips at least once a year.

We ate at several places throughout the trip but two of them really left me wanting more.  Following them on IG and twitter doesn’t help the situation either.

Empellón Cocina – If you know me at all, you know my love of all things Mexican.  Some people even think I am Mexican by my appearance (I’m not though..) but I think it directly related to my constant appetite for Mexican cuisine.  I’m really not even that picky about it.  I will say I appreciate both sides of the spectrum pretty equally.  Meaning my favorite mexi is either the super authentic, not-trying-hard-at-all, hole in the wall places and my other favorite is fancy mexi.  Empellon is definitely fancy mex.  The restaurant was trendy, and packed, and pricey.  But it’s Lower East Side/Manhattan so what do you expect?

Highlights were the scotch egg, pistachio guacamole, and the salsa tasting.  Oh and my margarita was one of the best I have ever had.  Couldn’t tell you what it was called but I believe jalapeno was involved.

We also ate at Locanda Verde one evening and Ssam Bar  for lunch one day.  Both were also amazing but for the sake of not writing a novel, let’s skip to the end-all be-all of dinners.  Literally the most amazing dinner I have experienced to date.  Del Posto.  We all did the 8 course captain’s dinner & wine pairing.  A bit over the top?  Perhaps.  Regrets?  NONE.  I don’t remember a lot of it for two reasons – it was a LOT to remember AND it is sort of like a distant dream to me.  Did we really eat there?

I do know my favorite course was the Spaghetti with Dungeness Crab, Sliced Jalapeno & Minced Scallion.  And that’s all I’m giving you along with a quick slideshow below because really – everyone needs to just go experience this place on their own (at least once).

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Oh and one more NY staple that helped cure a horrid hangover one morning (along with a million different types of drinks) – a slice of NY pizza pie!  If anyone knows of authentic NY pizza in the Atlanta area, please let me know about it immediately.

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BOSTON

My husband and I went to Boston for the first time this year.  We flew there from Atlanta and then rented a car to drive to NJ for my Dad’s graduation after our weekend trip in the city.  Lots of history in Boston which I loved, especially because we don’t quite have that down south.  We walked everywhere and saw a lot.  But what stood out the most?  You guessed it – the food!  We stumbled upon this place, The Butcher Shop, for lunch the day we got in and OMG BEST STEAK TARTAR EVER!  The place itself is super cool too.  Wine bar meets butcher shop.  Eat there or stop in and grab something out of the fridge to take home (but at least stay for a glass of wine).

We also ate at B&G Oysters one night.  Same restaurant group as The Butcher Shop and really – same level of impressiveness.  This is the restaurant that turned my husband on to oysters.  Not only did he eat one…he ate several…and liked them a lot!  If you know him, you understand how epic this night was for me.  I, on the other hand, learned that I don’t like lobster rolls and I need to stop trying to like them.  I love the idea of them but I have ordered them enough times to know that they are just not my thing.  No fault to B&G, just a simple personal palette error.

The Liberty Hotel was a cool late night spot for us.  Cool bar and great ambiance…if you are into the whole old jail turned hotel thing.

Fenway Park is obviously a must-see.  There wasn’t a game when we were there but the bar is open and you can see the field from your stool.

Walking around the city is easy and walking to Cambridge isn’t bad either…unless you are completely starved.  Take it from me and eat first.

The North End is officially one of my favorite places in America.  I still haven’t been to the motherland (Italy) but the North End almost filled the gap for a bit.  I loved everything about it.  There are over 100 or so Italian restaurants I think?  I don’t know the exact number…maybe it’s over 50.  Either way, they are supposedly all pretty much awesome…otherwise the place will shut down and fast.  So just make sure a place has been in business for over a year or so and you should be safe.  Oh and don’t even get me started on the pastries.  I’m a sucker for a cannoli and these shops have every type of cannoli you can imagine.  Heav-EN.

That’s going to wrap it up for today but I should have plenty of time to blog this week with the big snow storm coming and all.  One whole inch of snow is expected.  Brace yourself ATL!

Plus, Chicago deserves it’s own post since it’s my most favorite city in all of the states.  Annnnd I went twice this year so I have a lot to share!

Cheers!

ML

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If only I had a blog a year ago

Looking back on 2013, I traveled quite a bit more than my normal amount.  Nowhere too crazy but just some of the best cities in America.  No big deal.  BUT, I’m mad I wasn’t blogging before I took these trips because they were pretty post-worthy.  That being sad, I will somewhat document my 2013 travels in a short post (or several short posts) as I still think it’s important to share what I did (mainly dining…lots of dining…and wining) in these cities.  It would be evil not to!

Places I wandered to in 2013 (most were not for the first time):

St. Simons Island, GA

Charleston, SC (twice)

New York City, NY

Charlotte, NC (twice)

Cancun, MX

Sylva, NC

Philadelphia, PA

Boston, MA

Mount Airy, MD

Chicago, IL (twice)

So more to come on those little trips of mine soon!

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